the long run

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The GO! St. Louis Marathon + Half Marathon takes place exactly one month from today, which means many people are gearing up for some double digit runs in the coming weeks.  Here are some of my tips for surviving the long run:

1.  Out-and-Back vs. Loop:  This is really a personal preference thing.  I prefer the out-and-back, for some reason.  I always thought one big long loops was better until marathon training this summer.  Sure the loop (and I’m not talking about the Delmar Loop) is great because you are never running past the same place twice.  But, to me, it seems loooooooong + boring.  (Like running on a track, it gets OLD.)  With an out-and-back, I like that feeling that as soon as I get to my halfway point, I get to turn around and run the same thing all over again.  I know, that sounds crazy, but for some reason, it just makes those miles fly by since I know I have run them before.  Plus, if you find a good trail, they should have water stops along the way, so you’ll get to hit that water stop twice on an out-and-back!  But, again, personal preference…

2.  Fuel + Hydration:  When training for a half marathon, I don’t typically find it necessary (for me) to eat anything during my long runs.  I usually don’t run more than 90 minutes for a long run, so I stick with water and Gatorade to stay hydrated.  However, when training for a marathon, I will typically sip on Gatorade throughout my run and eat about 100 calories worth of fuel for every hour I am running (which is usually up to 3 hours).  I do however eat immediately before AND after my long runs.  My pre-run fuel usually consists of a slice of bread or English muffin with some peanut butter and honey or jelly.  Post-run is almost always a smoothie or a big bowl of oatmeal with all the works.

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I can’t stress enough how much fueling myself properly has impacted how I feel after a run.  When training for my first marathon (GO! St. Louis in 2008), I hardly ate anything before or during my runs, and maybe a bowl of cereal or oatmeal after.  And I hardly ever drank Gatorade.  This would cause me to feel sick to my stomach the rest of the day (to the point where I felt I needed to be on the toilet all afternoon – I know, TMI), and I would hardly be able to move the next day.  Now, I changed my tune a bit with Chicago – eating before, during, and after, along with at least a bottle of Gatorade during and after my runs.  And guess what, no more stomach pain, and I was able to do a semi-long run the next day.  Don’t EVER be scared to eat!  Your body deserves the extra fuel with all the strain you are putting on it with training.

3.  Gear:  The one thing I must always have before any run over 8 miles is Body Glide.  I chafe terribly – in places people would never even think.  Sports bar lines, inner thighs, toes, heels, armpits – it’s pretty bad.  Body Glide is probably the best running investment besides shoes.  Go get some if chafing is a problem!

body_glide Image source.

Also, dress for the weather.  Long runs can last for 2 hours – and if you start late morning, say 9 or 10, the weather may drastically change over those 2 hours.  Be prepared with layers.  If it’s chilly when you start, make sure you have a long sleeve shirt you can take off if you get too warm.  I like to be warm on my runs, so I will wear running tights + long sleeves if its in the 40s or below, switch to shorts and long sleeves with 50s to 60s, and shorts and a t-shirt (I can’t do running tank tops – hello chafing!) if it’s above 65-ish.  And I almost always have gloves if it’s below 60 degrees – my digits freeze with cold weather thanks to Raynaud’s Syndrome.

Shoes are always essential, but socks are even more important.  I’m a terrible example and wear cotton socks because I am too cheap to buy expensive running socks (and the ones I do own have holes in them).  But, if you are getting blisters, the right socks will help with that.  Unless you’re cheap like me…

4.  How Far Did I Run:  Of course, you should always be prepared with how far you plan on running.  However, if you don’t know the distance from point A to point B, you might be running more or less what you should be running.  Again, I’m cheap and don’t own a Garmin.  (OK, that’s a lie… I do, but it’s the really old ghetto massive one that’s more of a pain than a help – and we live in a black hole apparently because we have issues getting GPS signals.)  For Chicago, I relied on my Nike+ Sportband.  They run about $60 and use a sensor for your stride.  Definitely not the most accurate (the day of the actual marathon, it said I ran 28 miles).  Before my Nike+, I used Gmap-Pedometer.com, but you can also check out MapMyRun.com or even DailyMile.com.  All these allow you to map out your course to ensure you are going the correct distance.  My new-found love is Run Keeper Pro, which is an app for my iPhone.  I don’t typically run with an iPod, but lately, it’s been nice to know my distance and have a little music at the same time.  Plus, I feel much safer with my phone.

Sorry, this is long winded.  If you read this whole thing, I owe you some ice cream after your long run this weekend!  Good luck to all of you who are embarking on double digits soon.  Hopefully you feel a little more prepared if you didn’t already!